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Florida has billions in federal education aid waiting. It hasn’t applied.

A roundup of Florida education news from around the state.
Children arrive for classes at Skycrest Elementary School during first day of school on Wednesday, Aug, 11, 2021, in Clearwater.
Children arrive for classes at Skycrest Elementary School during first day of school on Wednesday, Aug, 11, 2021, in Clearwater. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Oct. 5, 2021

Schools and communities across Florida and the nation struggled as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on their operations. The federal government responded by approving billions of dollars in education aid to help get students back on track and keep campuses safe, among other needs. Florida is the only state not to have claimed the third round of the money. Read on for that story and more Florida education news.

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education sent the state a letter inquiring about its application. State officials, who have missed several deadlines, said no district has indicated a need for the added funding. The chairperson of the Lee County School Board noted that districts haven’t been asked, WFTX reports. The president of the Broward Teachers Union called the state’s inaction “reckless,” Yahoo News reports.

Mask battles

Nearly a dozen school districts face possible sanctions over their mask policies. Some are backing down. But not Duval County, the Florida Times-Union reports.

Families of children with disabilities are fighting the state rule in federal court. Denied an injunction at their first stop, they have filed an appeal with the district appellate court in Atlanta, the News Service of Florida reports.

More coronavirus concerns

The digital divide is affecting the way Florida children learn. Some Duval County organizations aim to help fill the gaps by providing technology to needing families, WJAX reports.

School districts are revising their quarantine policies. The Alachua County school district’s latest rules aim to reduce the number of children out of school, the Main Street Daily News reports. • The Broward County School Board will debate whether to follow the new state rule allowing parents to choose whether children who have been exposed to the virus may attend if they have no symptoms, the Sun-Sentinel reports. (Subscription required)

Staffing shortages

Leon County schools are short on substitutes. Many of its veterans are retired educators who choose not to put their health at risk during the pandemic, the Tallahassee Democrat reports.

It’s been tough for schools to find teachers through traditional methods these days. The Marion County Public Education Foundation is offering scholarships to non-instructional district employees who want to become classroom teachers, WJXT reports.

Broward County schools have struggled to hire enough guidance counselors. The district decided to train its own, WLRN reports.

School safety

Three Alachua County students have been arrested for making bomb threats against their schools. More arrests are expected, WUFT reports.

Some state lawmakers have tried for years to restrict the use of restraints on students with disabilities. State Sen. Lauren Book has another bill on the subject, Florida Politics reports.

Other school news

State lawmakers said students receiving Gardiner Scholarships would not lose them during a revision of voucher programs. Two months into the school year, thousands of families are still waiting for their funding, the Orlando Sentinel reports. (Subscription required)

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About that Okaloosa County high school teacher who showed students an R-rated movie ... The teacher has been placed on leave while the district investigates the situation, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports.

School crowding remains a problem in parts of Santa Rosa County. The school district began construction on a new K-8 campus to ease the crunch, the Pensacola News-Journal reports.

From the police blotter ... Two police officers were injured, and five students arrested, during an after school brawl at a Broward County high school, the Associated Press reports. • A Miami-Dade County teacher was arrested on accusations of an inappropriate relationship with a student, WPLG reports.

From the court docket ... The Miami-Dade County school district was ordered to pay $6 million to a former student of a teacher accused of sexual harassment, the Miami Herald reports. • Two Lee County students charged with plotting a school shooting entered pleas of not guilty, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. • The Sarasota County school district reached a $400,000 settlement with an employee who accused a former superintendent of sexual harassment and retaliation, the Herald-Tribune reports.

Don’t miss a story. Here’s the link to yesterday’s roundup.

Before you go ... Have you heard the story about the artist who received $84,000 to complete a work for a Danish museum? Let’s just say the curators are unhappy, as The Guardian reports.

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